In the heart of Victor, Idaho, people can find an inviting and eclectic shop where customers can buy boutique clothing and high-end body jewelry, get custom body piercings, enjoy made-to-order mochas and lattes, watch ski films, or play electric guitar.
“We created a living room atmosphere in S.U.B.A. with relaxing, ambient music so the community could gather and stay for a while,” owner Suzi Woodward says. “I wanted it to be funky, but relaxed enough that a kid with a mohawk could feel as much at home as his unpierced, non-tattooed parents.”
S.U.B.A., an acronym for Sub-Urban Body Adornment, once enjoyed a rotating circle of visiting tattoo artists, including Amy Dowell (a.k.a The Painted Lady); Milo Alfring from Colorado; and Christian Buckingham from Las Vegas, a two-time finalist on the popular television series “Ink Master.”
“We are tribal beings by nature,” Woodward says. “Pierced, tattooed, music loving people are our tribe.”
Currently, S.U.B.A. is not offering tattoos, and is instead focusing on custom body piercing. “Every anatomy is unique,” Woodward says. “A lot of people come in for an industrial piercing, but they don’t have the natural curve of ear. You can’t make the ear fit the jewelry. The jewelry has to fit the ear.”
Woodward hails from the Big Apple. In 1987, she moved to the mountains. “When I first moved to Jackson, it was all Deadheads and cowboys,” she says. “A punk rock raver like myself was left in the wind. My intention wasn’t to stay. I never thought a New York City girl could be happy living in a small town.”
After being a customer at a record shop in Jackson called Mountunes for years, she started working there and, after six years, she purchased
the shop in 2000. It was her first foray as a business owner and the shop stayed open for nearly a decade, but she was forced to morph her business model when people stopped buying records.
“I had to come up with innovative ways to pay my ever-increasing rent on Broadway,” she says. “I added espresso, computers, clothing, and something you couldn’t buy online: tattooing and piercing.”
Ultimately, Woodward seized the opportunity for a new space and a fresh image on the Idaho side of the Tetons in Victor. S.U.B.A. is now a counterculture hub for locals and tourists alike.
Multi-generational clients sometimes frequent Woodward’s shop. “Once I pierced daughter, mother, and grandmother all at once,” she says. “It’s a bonding experience for friends, siblings, and families.”
Her most memorable client was also her first transgender customer, who wanted to pierce her ears. “All of us girls love to accessorize and feel feminine,” Woodward says. “It was my honor to bring her through that rite of passage.”
Woodward’s passions help her relate to all of her customers. “I have always been rebellious and counterculture by nature, with a passion for art and music,” Woodward says. “My appreciation for tattooing grew out of that, and piercing followed.”